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Cloud Security Best Practices

Cloud Security Best Practices

As the cloud has become the preferred option for many organizations for storing their data and hosting their applications, cloud security has never been more important. According to Statista, 79% of companies have experienced a cloud data breach in the past 18 months, and 43% have experienced 10 or more breaches. With the heightened cybersecurity threat landscape, organizations need to take a proactive approach to cloud security. The following are some cloud security best practices to consider:

  1. Secure your user endpoints - In cloud security, endpoints refer to end-user devices such as laptops, desktops, tablets and mobile phones. More broadly, this can also include sensors and primary data sources such as IoT devices that supply data to your cloud applications. The first step in securing endpoints should be a thorough inventory to identify all devices that need to be secured, and to assess the security requirements for each type of device. Implementation of operating systems and software updates and patches should be automated wherever possible to ensure they are implemented immediately upon release. Strong access controls such as multifactor authentication is another important approach. A third key is user awareness. The weakest link in cloud security is often the end-user. We will address users separately.

  2. Implement encryption - Encrypt everything! The best way to safeguard sensitive data from unauthorized access or modification and overcome cloud security challenges is encryption. Data should be encrypted at rest, in transit and in use. There are many different encryption algorithms available today, but they all serve the same purpose: securing information in an unreadable form that only authorized parties can decrypt.

  3. Tighten access controls - A best practice for enterprise cloud system design is the implementation of a zero-trust policy. This approach requires users to be re-authenticated each time they try and access a new system or application within your cloud environment. If your systems are breached, a zero-trust policy can limit the scope of any security breach.

  4. Choose a trusted provider - Many organizations choose to use a third-party cloud service provider to manage their systems and their cloud security. Although working with a third party can result in significant cost savings when compared to the cost of hiring and managing your own team, it is important to do your due diligence. Make sure that your cloud provider holds any certifications that are required in your industry such as HIPAA or SOC2. Even if your industry does not have its own technology security standards, you might want to choose a partner who holds these certifications as you can be assured that they have rigorous processes and procedures in place for cloud security and infrastructure management. Other important criteria should be evidence of regular third-party security audits and scrutinizing their history of data breaches.

  5. Define a data access policy - It's important to establish clear policies on how data should be stored, accessed and used. To keep your cloud environment secure, restricting user access is critical. User access should be reviewed and limited to ensure each easier only has the minimum access and permissions needed for them to do their job. This should include clear guidance on how where data may be accessed and how it should be handled and stored.

  6. Practice good password hygiene - Password policies should go beyond simply imposing minimum requirements for the format of passwords and prompting regular password updates. Multifactor authentication should be an essential feature of your cloud security strategy. Multifactor authentication, including transmitting pins to trusted devices, biometrics, security tokens and other approaches, can represent a significant barrier against malicious activity.

  7. Deploy centralized identity management - Centralized identity management allows organizations to manage all user accounts with a single interface rather than managing it at the departmental or application level. Centralized identity management helps ensure the consistent enforcement of cloud security policies. These systems can not only make it easier when on-boarding new employees, it can also ensure smooth off-boarding of employees without the security worries that can result from decentralized processes and systems.

  8. Utilize the shared responsibility model - The shared responsibility model is a commonly used way to manage a company's cloud security risks. It involves sharing responsibility between a company, its vendors, and its users. The model clearly defines each party’s role in ensuring cloud security and serves as the basis for accountability. This model is beneficial because it allows all parties to ensure there are no gaps in understanding and expectation relating to cloud security and allows them to confidently work to fulfill their obligations.

  9. Regularly train your users - The cloud security threat environment is ever-present and evolving. It is important that end-users are educated to recognize common tactics used by cybercriminals as a first line of defense. Regular cybersecurity training can not only keep workers up to date on the latest tactics used by malicious parties, it can also maintain an elevated state of awareness about the seriousness of ongoing threats to cloud security.